Jul 19, 2024  
School of Graduate Studies Calendar, 2022-2023 
School of Graduate Studies Calendar, 2022-2023 [-ARCHIVED CALENDAR-]

General Regulations of the Graduate School




Please note: if there is any discrepancy between a department or program handbook and the School of Graduate Studies Calendar, then the School of Graduate Studies Calendar shall prevail.

Collection of Personal Information

Under the authority of the McMaster University Act, 1976, and by applying to McMaster or by enrolling in a program at the University, students expressly acknowledge and agree that the collection, retention, use and disclosure of relevant personal information is necessary for McMaster University to:

  • establish a record of the student’s performance in programs and courses;
  • to assist the University in the academic and financial administration of its affairs;
  • to provide the basis for awards and government funding; and
  • to establish the student’s status as a member of relevant student governmental organization.

Similarly, and in compliance with McMaster University’s access to information and protection of privacy policies and Canadian and Ontario privacy laws, the University provides personal information to:

  • the Canadian and Ontario government for the purposes of reporting purposes; and
  • to appropriate student government organizations for the purposes of allowing such organizations to communicate with its membership and providing student government-related services consistent with the enrolment by a student at the University.

By applying and/or enrolling at McMaster University the student expressly consents to this collection, retention, use and disclosure of such personal information in this manner. Questions regarding the collection or use of personal information should be directed to the University Secretary, Gilmour Hall, Room 210, McMaster University.

Retention of Documents

All documentation submitted in support of an application for admission (including original transcripts) becomes the property of the University and is not returnable.

If an applicant is not accepted, or fails to enroll following acceptance, their documentation (including original transcripts) will be destroyed at the end of the admissions cycle.

2.1 Admission Requirements

McMaster University seeks candidates for graduate study who show high scholarly promise. Admission to a graduate program is based on a judgement by the University that the applicant can successfully complete the graduate degree program. The University’s minimum requirements are identified in this section. Degrees and grades from foreign universities are evaluated for their equivalency to McMaster’s. Departments or programs may establish additional requirements, such as scores on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Applicants should read the admission statement for the program or department, as well as the section here. Admission is competitive: meeting the minimum requirements does not guarantee admission. Final decisions on matters of admission rest with the Graduate Admissions and Studies Committee for each Faculty or the Graduate Associate Dean acting on the committee’s behalf. The admission decision is not subject to appeal.

2.1.1 Admission Requirements for Master’s Degree

The majority of graduate programs at McMaster University require the holding of an Honours bachelor’s degree from a recognized university with at least a B+ average (equivalent to a McMaster 8.5 GPA out of 12) in the final year in all courses in the discipline, or relating to the discipline, in which the applicant proposes to do graduate work. Programs which consider applications with a mid-B average identify this in the relevant section of the calendar. In a Master’s program in the Faculty of Engineering the requirement is at least a B- average (equivalent to a McMaster 7.0 GPA). Strong letters of recommendation are also required. Some programs may have different admission requirements, for example, some programs may consider professional practice or experience within the application process so please consult the program section of the calendar for details.

In recognition of the changes taking place in the structure of university education as a consequence of the Bologna Accord, three-year, first-cycle degrees that meet the criteria of the “Framework for Qualifications of the European Higher Education Area” will be accepted in place of a four-year Honours degree. Standard admission requirements will still apply. A Diploma Supplement should accompany the official transcript [item (a) under Section 2.2 ].

Prospective applicants who lack some background in the discipline they wish to enter should consult the Undergraduate Calendar with regard to Continuing Student status. A continuing student is a university graduate who is not currently enrolled in a degree program, but who wishes to take one or more undergraduate classes.


2.1.2 Admission Requirements for Ph.D. Degree

Applicants may be admitted to a regular Ph.D. program at one of three stages in their academic work: (1) after completion of a Master’s program; (2) Directly from a Master’s program at McMaster without completing the Master’s degree; (3) in exceptional cases, directly from a Bachelor’s program. Students still enrolled in a Master’s with thesis program beyond 22 months must complete the degree requirements including the thesis prior to admission to the Ph.D. program.

  1. For applicants who hold a Master’s degree, the primary requirements are distinction in their previous graduate work (equivalent to at least a McMaster B+), and strong letters of reference.
  2. Students enrolled in a Master’s program at McMaster University may be transferred to the Ph.D. program prior to completion of the Master’s degree. Not sooner than two terms and no later than 22 months after initial registration in the Master’s program here, students may request to be reclassified as Ph.D. students. After proper review, the department will recommend one of the following:
    1. admission to Ph.D. studies following completion of the requirements for the Master’s degree;
    2. admission to Ph.D. studies without completion of a Master’s program;
    3. admission to Ph.D. studies but with concurrent completion of all requirements for a Master’s degree within one term from the date of reclassification;
    4. refusal of admission to Ph.D. studies.

       In no case does successful completion of a Master’s degree guarantee admission to Ph.D. studies.

For students in (b), the recommendation for admission to Ph.D. must identify which if any courses taken as a Master’s student can be credited toward the requirements for the Doctoral program.

A student in (b) may re-register as a candidate for the Master’s degree, provided that work to date has met the standards for the Master’s program.

Students in (c) who do not complete the requirements for the Master’s degree within the one term will lose their status as a Ph.D. candidate and be returned to Master’s status.

  1. In certain programs, applicants with a Bachelor’s degree only, may be admitted directly to Ph.D. studies. Such students must show sufficient promise, including at least an A average. Within one calendar year the progress of students admitted to Ph.D. studies directly from a Bachelor’s degree will be reviewed by their supervisory committee and the program. The program then will recommend one of the following:
    1. proceed with Ph.D. studies;
    2. not proceed with Ph.D. studies but re-register as a Master’s candidate;
    3. withdraw from the University.

A student admitted to a Ph.D. program who re-registers as a candidate for a Master’s degree must meet all of the requirements for the Master’s degree in order for it to be awarded.


2.1.3 Transfer to Ph.D.

Transfers to a Ph.D. program take effect at the start of the next term, or are retroactive to September 1st for students whose request to transfer is received by the School of Graduate Studies by the end of the second week of October. Students are encouraged to transfer early (i.e., well before the end of the 5th term of their Masters) given that the time-limit on transfers described in 2.1.2 above.

2.1.4 Admission Requirements for Part-Time Ph.D. Degree

Admission to a part-time Ph.D. program is possible only for an individual holding a Master’s degree whose circumstances preclude uninterrupted full-time doctoral studies. Because of the divergent nature of academic disciplines, part-time doctoral work is not feasible in some areas. Accordingly, no Department or Program is obligated to offer part-time doctoral work. As part of their applications prospective part-time students are required to provide a plan of study, including a clear account of when and where the thesis research is to be conducted. If facilities at the place of employment are to be used for the research, the signed agreement of the employer, recognizing the conditions surrounding graduate work, is also required. In addition, departments may have other requirements for admission to a part-time doctoral program. A part-time doctoral student must be geographically available on a regular basis, and must be able to participate regularly in departmental seminars and colloquia.

2.1.5 Admission of Students to a Cotutelle Ph.D. Degree

A cotutelle is a single Ph.D. awarded by two post-secondary institutions, typically from different countries. A cotutelle degree promotes and structures research collaborations in a way that allows students access to a broader range of research experience than would be available at a single institution. 

Partner university arrangements may vary and students must investigate what is required to fulfill that institution’s cotutelle requirements. For information on how to apply please view the Cotutelle Policy and the information available on the School of Graduate Studies website.

2.1.6 Admission of Students with Related Work Experience or Course Work Beyond the Bachelor’s Degree

Some potential applicants may not satisfy our admission requirement. However, work experience and/or completed course work beyond the Bachelor’s degree, may have some bearing on the applicant’s ability to complete a graduate program. The admissions process will recognize these accomplishments as follows.

Admission to graduate studies for a student with related work experience and/or course work beyond the Bachelor’s degree will be based on the following criteria:

  1. References from reliable sources, which specifically identify the applicant’s aptitude for research and graduate education.
  2. University 4-year undergraduate degree or equivalent, completed more than 4 years ago, together with additional course work taken since that time.
  3. Significant record of workplace experience, the relevance of which will be assessed by the graduate program of choice.

Submission of a complete resume is required to determine eligibility as a mature student.  Such recommendations must be approved by the Graduate Associate Dean of the Faculty in question and evidence of ability to do graduate work will still be required.

2.1.7 Admission Requirements for Graduate Diploma Programs

The admission requirements for a graduate diploma are the same as are identified in Section 2.1.1 and in Section 2.1.6 (above) for admission to a Master’s program.


2.1.8 Admission Requirements for Post-Degree Students

A Post-degree Student is one who has not been admitted to a graduate degree or diploma program but who holds a university degree and has been given permission to take a specific graduate course. Permission to take a course as a post-degree student requires the approval of the course instructor, the Department Chair, and the School of Graduate Studies. An application is required for each course. Students are allowed to take up to three courses as post-degree.

Although acceptance as a post-degree student carries no implications with respect to acceptance for a degree program in the School of Graduate Studies, the level of academic achievement expected for admission under this category is the same as that required of students admitted to a Master’s program (Section 2.1.1 ). Courses taken as a post-degree student may be eligible for credit toward a Master’s degree in a related program, to a maximum of one-half of the degree’s course requirement, subject to the recommendation of the department or program to the relevant Faculty Graduate Admissions and Study Committee.

A student who has completed a relevant undergraduate degree and is not admissible to a program under current standards, may be admitted as a post-degree student with the approval of the Associate Dean to demonstrate admissibility. In such cases, any courses taken as a post-degree student will not be available for credit in a subsequent graduate program, should they be eventually considered to be admissible. 

The deadline for registration is the same as for graduate degree programs (see Sessional Dates, Registration ). 

Post-degree students are not allowed to take graduate courses for Audit.

(Note: A Graduate Diploma is distinct from a baccalaureate, undergraduate diploma, Master’s or Ph.D. degree, or diplomas and certificates awarded by the Centre for Continuing Education at McMaster University).

2.1.9 Non-Credit Participants in Graduate Courses

Graduate courses are not normally open to “auditors” who attend a course without the usual qualifications and without seeking academic credit. Under some circumstances, however, people who are not registered graduate students and who do not meet the requirements for admission as Post-degree (see Section 2.1.8 above) may attend a graduate course. This requires the written permission of the course instructor, the Department Chair, and the School of Graduate Studies.

A fee is charged for each course taken as a non-credit participant (by persons who are not registered graduate students or for graduate students in a course-charged program). See Section 4.1, Fees for Graduate Students , for more information about fees.

2.1.10 Visiting Students

Visiting Students are individuals who are currently registered in a graduate degree program in another university, and who have made arrangements through both their home university and a graduate program at McMaster to spend some time at McMaster as part of their degree program at the home university. While they are visiting students, they will not be enrolled in a degree program at McMaster. They are not part of any official exchange agreement including Ontario Visiting Graduate Student (OVGS) arrangement, although there may be an agreement between the McMaster program and their home institution. For more information on Ontario Visiting Graduate Student arrangements please consult Section 5.10. McMaster currently allows out-of-province and international students to visit in one of three ways: to take course work in a specific program; to conduct research in a specific lab; or to participate in an internship with a specific program or faculty member. In any case, students will be enrolled as full-time students for a maximum of one year. Visiting students do not normally pay tuition unless taking courses but in all cases, are expected to pay supplementary fees (see Section 4.1 Fees for Graduate Students ). Acceptance is on the recommendation of the department or program at McMaster. For every term that the student is here in residence they must register in SGS 302 . Visiting students are not permitted to audit courses.

It is necessary for international visiting students to enroll in the UHIP program to ensure adequate health insurance coverage during their stay.

2.1.11 Incoming Exchange Students

Exchange students are individuals who much like visiting students, are enrolled in a graduate degree program in another university and are paying fees to that university. The difference between a visiting student and an exchange student is that the exchange student participates in a formal exchange program between McMaster University and their home institution. A complete list of exchange agreements that McMaster participate in can be found on the Office of International Students Affairs webpage (http://oia.mcmaster.ca). For every term that the student is here in residence the must register in SGS 702 .

Students participating in a formal exchange program are not assessed supplementary, or course fees, and are entitled to take a full course load (assuming they are registered for a full course load at their home institution). It is necessary for them to enroll in the UHIP program to ensure adequate health insurance coverage during their stay.

2.1.12 English Language Requirements

English is the language of instruction and evaluation at McMaster, except in the M.A. and Ph.D. programs in French. Hence it is essential that all students (except in the French program) be able to communicate effectively in English.

Applicants whose primary language is not English will be required to furnish evidence of their proficiency in the use of the English language. Such applicants are required to supply this evidence as part of their application. At the discretion of the graduate program, applicants may be exempted from this requirement if they have completed a university degree at which English is the language of instruction.

The most common evidence is a score on the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). Equivalent scores on other recognized tests may also be considered.A full list of accepted language testing systems and their minimum requirements are given on the School of Graduate Studies website.

Students taking the IELTS are required to achieve a minimum score of 6.5 with a minimum score of 5.5 in each category. 

TOEFL minimum requirements per Faculty are listed below, while individual programs may have higher published requirements.

  • In most Faculties a minimum of 92 IBT (internet-based test) is required. 
  • In Business, Ph.D. and MBA programs require a minimum score of 100 with a minimum of 22 in the reading component, 22 in the listening component, 26 in the speaking component and 24 in the writing component on the IBT. The Master of Finance Program Requires a minimum score of 92. 
  • In Engineering the faculty requires a minimum score of 88 TOEFL (internet-based) or 6.5 IELTS. Please check with the program to see specific requirements, which may be higher.

Students who have completed an Academic ESL program through Canadian academic institutions may petition to have this considered in lieu of TOEFL.


2.2 Application for Admission

Enquiries about graduate work should be made directly to the department of interest. Our online application system is located at 


Applications may be submitted at any time but applicants should refer to the department or program to which they are applying for department specific deadlines. However, most University scholarships and awards are adjudicated in late March or early April, so students applying later than March cannot be considered for these awards.

Applications from outside Canada should be completed at least five months before the desired date of entry in order to allow for any delays and for completing the necessary government processes such as obtaining a Canadian study permit.

Application Fee

Applications must be accompanied by the required application fee. This fee is non-refundable and must be paid in Canadian dollars by means of a credit card payment or electronic transfer. The fee is assessed for each program requested to review the application.The application is only assessed for the term to which the applicant applied; for additional terms, a new application must be submitted with all documents entered again and the fee paid again for review.

The following items are required before your online application will be considered complete. 

  1. One official transcript of academic work completed to date, sent directly from the issuing institution. If the final transcript does not show that a completed degree has been conferred, an official copy of your diploma is also required.
  2. Two confidential letters of recommendation from instructors most familiar with your academic work or appropriate relevant experience. Please note that McMaster University uses the Electronic Referencing System. By entering the email address of your referee through the online application, the system will automatically send an eReference request on your behalf.
  3. see Section 2.1.12  - English Language Requirements
  4. Statement of interest in pursuing graduate studies.

Programs may have additional admission requirements including, but not limited to, interviews.  Please consult your program for details.

A graduate of a university outside Canada may also be required to submit a description of undergraduate and graduate courses taken in the field of specialization and in similar fields.


2.3 Transfer/Advance Credit and Determination of Course Equivalency 

Transfer Credit

Application for transfer credit is normally done through the admissions process or via a Request for In-Program Course Adjustments before taking the course for in course students and in both cases requires an Associate Dean’s approval. Credits from other institutions must have been received in the last 5 years with a minimum grade of B-. In general, no credits used towards a previous degree or used as a basis of admission will be approved as credit toward a McMaster graduate degree. Normally, a maximum of 50% of the course degree requirements only will be approved for transfer credit. Approved transfer credit appears as a course with a grade notation of T on the student’s transcript. Official transcripts from the original institution are required to update the student’s transcript.

Credits from other institutions can be used to substitute a specific McMaster University course requirement; however, the student may be required to take additional courses. Students wishing to apply for advance credit or course requirement equivalency should normally inquire when they apply or accept an offer of admission.  Requests after admission should be submitted to the program office for consideration using a petition for special consideration.

Advance Credit

Eligible students enrolled in a program with an advanced credit option may request advance credit for up to two courses based on courses taken in their undergraduate degree at McMaster. For full details, please refer to descriptions of the individual programs. Requests for advance credit are done by petition to the Associate Dean of the Faculty once enrolled in the graduate program.

In some cases, course taken for credit as part of a diploma program may be considered for advanced standing credit in subsequent master’s programs.

Courses taken at the 500-level in a student’s undergraduate career at McMaster may be considered for advanced credit.

2.4 Acceptance

Graduate programs perform the initial assessment of completed applications.  Applicants may be accepted conditionally before completing their present degree programs. Conditions must be cleared by the deadline date specified in the offer letter.

Official offer letters are sent only by the School of Graduate Studies, and are valid only for the program and term stated in the admission letter. Successful applicants are required to respond through the Applicant Portal to the offer of admission prior to the response deadline. Some programs require a deposit fee. The value of the deposit fee will be deducted from the student’s tuition fees. If circumstances develop making it impossible for a student to begin graduate work in the specified term, the department and the School reserve the right to revoke the offer of admission, and any financial aid offered.

The graduate program and the University reserve the right to revoke an offer of admission if any submitted materials are falsified, if a final transcript does not meet admission requirements or if it contains an annotation about an academic integrity or code of conduct matter.

2.5 Enrollment

2.5.1 Continuity of Registration

All graduate students, in both the regular and part-time programs, are required to enroll and pay supplementary fees annually and tuition fees term by term (within the first month of the term) until they graduate or withdraw. If they fail to do so they do not retain the status of graduate student, will be withdrawn in good standing, and must apply for re-admission if they wish at a later date to continue their studies. If the department approves re-admission, a student may be allowed to begin graduate work in the winter or summer term (January or May), in which case they will first register at the start of that term, but in any following years will enroll in September for all three terms. A department’s decision on readmission is not subject to appeal. A student can either be:

• readmitted to defend if all that remains is the thesis defence and student is readmitted for one term only
• if a student needs more than one term to complete - they should be readmitted to program and maintain continuous enrollment until they complete their studies

Progress is expected to be continuous and a student who does not enroll for each term of the academic year will be withdrawn in good standing unless the program has indicated that a one term break in study is permitted. Programs that include a scheduled break, will list it in the program-specific section of the calendar. Only one single term break per academic year is permitted and cannot be in the first or last term of the program.  Scheduled breaks may be limited to a specific term in the academic year, or available in any of the three terms with approval of the program. Programs that are cohort based or which follow a specific course order, may not be suited to scheduled breaks. In these cases, students may be required to take a Leave of Absence for up to one year in order to return to the program at the appropriate time. 

See also section 3 Regulations for Degree Progression  for more information on program progression.

2.5.2 Definition of Full- and Part-time Status

Full-Time Status

A full-time graduate student must:

  1. have been admitted to a graduate program as a full-time student;
  2. be pursuing their studies as a full-time occupation;
  3. identify themself as a full-time graduate student;
  4. be designated by the university as a full-time graduate student;
  5. for most programs (and all research-based programs) be geographically available and visit the campus regularly. Other programs may have different requirements and may be conducted fully on-line. Without forfeiting full-time status, a graduate student, while still under supervision, may be away from the university (e.g. visiting libraries, doing field work, attending a graduate course at another institution, etc.) provided that, if any such period exceeds four weeks in any one term, written evidence shall be available in the Graduate Studies Office to the effect that this request has the approval of the department or program Chair and Graduate Associate Dean. For information on full time off campus please consult section 2.5.6.;
  6. be considered to be a full-time graduate student by their supervisor or equivalent (designated by the program office);
  7. understand that students who change status from full to part-time, do not receive any more time to complete their program and will continue to be charged tuition fees at the full-time level;
  8. understand that students who change part to full time will have their term count re-set on a ratio of 2:1.

All active graduate students other than full-time graduate students as defined above are part-time graduate students. See also section 3 Regulations for Degree Progression  for more information on program progression.

Part-Time Status

Part-time studies may or may not be possible in a graduate program; where possible, it will be listed in the program entry in the SGS Calendar. Normally a student’s status in the program (full or part-time) is determined at the time of admission.

Students who are registered as part-time are expected to be pursuing their studies on a part-time basis and making commensurate progress.

Transfer from part-time studies to full-time studies requires the approval of the graduate unit and may not be permitted in some programs. This will be described in the individual program section of the Graduate Calendar.

See also Section 3 Regulations for Degree Progression for more information on program progression and Section 4 for financial information.


2.5.3 McMaster University’s Regulations for Full- and Part-time Status

In accordance with the above provincial regulations, McMaster requires students to register annually, and to confirm their status as a full-time graduate student. Only full-time graduate students are eligible for scholarship support.

Full-time graduate students are expected to pursue their graduate degree on a full-time basis and make satisfactory progress toward timely completion of all program requirements. It is not possible, or desirable, for the university to monitor and enforce the employment activities of its graduate students outside the university. However, it is both possible and desirable for the university to ensure that it does not itself create a structural situation that jeopardizes the ability of the graduate student to make full-time progress towards the completion of graduate program requirements. Accordingly, full-time students who are participating in McMaster-based paid employment should work no more than an average of 20 hours a week to a maximum of 1005 hours in the academic year.  Normally students who exceed this limit are asked to drop down to part-time status, to stop working or reduce their hours of work.  Changing student status from full-time to part-time will affect a student’s scholarship funding and OSAP status. For international students with study permits, changing to part-time status may also impact their ability to fulfil the conditions of their study permit and eligibility for the post-graduate work permit.

As defined in Section 2.5.2, the University considers full-time students to be those that have their studies as their main activity. All full-time students must be available to conduct research (as appropriate), participate in courses and the other activities required by their program. In some cases, award holders may face employment restrictions, but it is the responsibility of the student to ensure their work arrangements are compliant with the terms of their awards.

Students admitted to a degree program on a part-time basis are responsible for maintaining close contact with faculty members and students in their field of study.

Transfers between full- and part-time status must be approved in the School of Graduate Studies based on a program recommendation

Normally, registration in a graduate program at McMaster and another institution is not allowed. Where there is no overlapping time component between two programs, an application for an exception can be made to the Associate Dean responsible for the McMaster program. Please note this regulation doesn’t apply to students who are within one term of completing their masters and concurrently starting their Ph.D., as outlined in 2.1, subsection 2c.

2.5.4 Employment Regulations

In the McMaster context, there are three terms in the School of Graduate Studies for purposes of interpreting the rule in Section 2.5.3 (above) limiting employment with the University to twenty hours per week on average: Fall (September through December); Winter (January through April); and Summer (May through August). These are deemed to have 17, 17, and 18 weeks respectively. The twenty-hour limit includes but is not limited to work as a Teaching Assistant at McMaster.

International students must abide by the employment conditions indicated on their study permit.

2.5.5 Enrolment - International Students on Study Permits

 A study permit is necessary to attend programs that are not fully online and are more than 6 months in duration.  An up-to-date permit is required for employment on campus and to graduate from a degree program.  A copy of your permit may be required by various offices at McMaster.

For the most up-to-date information about being an international student in Canada, visit the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website. It is the student’s responsibility to abide by all necessary government processes.

For information on status change to permanent resident status during the course of your study, please see section 4.1.14 .


2.5.6 Full Time Off-Campus

On admission to a full-time program, the assumption is that a student will be full-time on-campus. This is known as being “in residence”. If a student wants to spend a period of time away from the university in order to complete their research, they must apply to be full-time off campus and complete the form RMM 801.

2.5.7 Leaves of Absence

Graduate students are required to be continuously registered to support the timely completion of their degree.  Students may apply for a Leave of Absence in one of four categories (see below for the specifics for each type of leave):

1.  Medical or disability leave;

2.  Parenting leave;

3.  Compassionate or personal leave; or,

4.  No course available leave

General Notes for Leaves of Absence

Leaves of Absence (“LOA”) are normally granted on a term-by-term basis. Whenever possible the LOA should start and end at the beginning of a term (i.e., January 1, May 1, or September 1). During an LOA the student will not receive supervision or be entitled to use the University’s academic facilities for the purposes of academic progression. No tuition will be charged, nor will the student be eligible for any scholarship support. Please note students on an LOA have to pay applicable supplemental fees and will be able to use the services associated with those fees (please direct questions to Student Accounts). The length of time for completing the degree, and for scholarship support eligibility (see qualifier below), will be extended by the duration of the LOA on the resumption of studies. If an LOA begins or ends in the middle of a term, term count will be determined upon return in consultation with the Associate Dean.

It is understood that when a student takes a LOA, the duration of the leave will not be counted as time towards the time limits in which the student is required to complete or make progress in his or her graduate studies program. On occasion a student may take a leave of absence starting mid-term. This may have impacts on tuition, pay and term count, students should contact their program office or the School of Graduate Studies for more information.

Students should be aware that in the event of an LOA, continuation of the same research project and/or supervisor cannot be guaranteed. In order that the student’s supervisor and/or program can make suitable arrangements to cover ongoing responsibilities during the student’s LOA, students are expected to provide as much notice as possible of the intention to take a LOA.

Note: Students who hold fellowships, scholarships or grants from NSERC, SSHRC, CIHR, or OGS should be aware that these agencies or any other external funding source may have policies governing the interruption and continuation of awards that may differ from the University’s policy on LOA. Students holding such awards and who intend to keep them are responsible for ensuring that any LOA taken does not conflict with the granting agency’s regulations. The appropriate agency should be contacted for details.

Students returning earlier than planned from an LOA must provide  written notice to the School of Graduate Studies a minimum of four weeks in advance of the new return date.

LOA affecting Teaching Assistantship duties are covered by the Collective Agreement with Local 3906 (Unit 1) of the Canadian Union of Public Employees. Please refer to the collective agreement for additional information: http://www.workingatmcmaster.ca/elr/collective-agreements/cupe-unit1/

Alternatively, the student may request to withdraw (Change of Status Form). Should the student opt to withdraw, they may be eligible for reinstatement at the University’s discretion upon reapplication.

Please note in all cases leaves of absence have the potential to impact term counts. Students on a leave will have their term counts adjusted - if they are off for one or two months out of a term, the term is counted, in cases where they are off three or four month the term is not counted toward their overall term count.

For international students with study permits, an authorized leave longer than 150 days will impact your ability to fulfil the conditions of your study permit. This may result in losing your study permit and student status. You may also be required to leave Canada. 

1.  Medical or disability leave:

A medical or disability LOA is permitted for reasons of illness or disability, provided that the request is supported by adequate medical documentation.  Absences are approved for up to 12 months at a time. 

Students wishing to return from a medical LOA must provide a medical note indicating they are fit to continue with their studies.

2.  Parenting leave:

A parenting LOA is intended to assist parents in successfully combining their graduate studies and family responsibilities with minimum financial and/or academic impact. The University will provide the following arrangement for parents requiring parenting leave from their studies at the time of pregnancy, birth or adoption and/or to provide care during the child’s first year.

According to the Employment Standards Act 200 - May 7, 2018 version Part XIV, a “parent” includes:  “a person with whom a child is placed for adoption and a person who is in a relationship of some permanence with a parent of a child and who intends to treat the child as his or her own”. 

While students are not covered by the Employment Standards Act, McMaster grants students a Parenting Leave for a maximum of four consecutive terms.  A student electing not to take the maximum amount of time available for Parenting Leave will not have the option of taking any unused portion at a later date.  Students returning from a leave should consult with their programs and should note that course availability may be affected by the timing of their return.

Eligible students can also apply for a Parenting Grant.  More information on this is available on the School of Graduate Studies Website at the following link: https://gs.mcmaster.ca/awards-funding/parenting-grant.

A parenting LOA or a portion thereof may be taken concurrently with a Pregnancy and/or Parental Leave from employment, in accordance with the Employment Standards Act, 2000, should the student also be an employee of the University.

3.  Compassionate or personal leave:

Students who have successfully completed at least one full year in a graduate program may apply for an LOA once for up to one year for personal circumstances, or work experience provided that the student’s supervisor and the department support the request.

An LOA will not be granted to pursue another program of study.

Under certain circumstances the Vice-Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies may allow for a special leave of absence.  In this case, application should be made directly to the Vice-Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies.

4.  No course available leave:

This leave is available only for graduate programs that have indicated on their website that the ‘no course available leave’ is an option.  This leave is available to students who have yet to complete course work and no suitable course is offered in a given term; the student may petition for a ‘no course available leave’ for that term.  This leave is not available if the student is registered in a program that requires a thesis/dissertation or a major research paper.

2.5.8 Vacations

Full-time graduate students are expected to be on campus for all three terms of the university year, as specified in Section 1.3 . In addition to statutory holidays (see Sessional Dates ) and the closure of the University normally late December until early January, normal vacation entitlement for a graduate student is two weeks of vacation during the year, to be scheduled by mutual agreement with the research supervisor. An exception to this allotment requires approval from the supervisor or in the supervisor’s absence a member of the supervisory committee.

Students who are also employees of the University must seek vacation approval from their employment supervisor and are entitled to vacation time pursuant to the terms of their employment contract.

2.5.9 Appeals and Petitions for Special Consideration

The University wishes to assist students with legitimate difficulties. It also has the responsibility to ensure that degree, program and course requirements are met in a manner that is equitable to all students. Please note that academic accommodation requests related to a disability are processed under the Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities policy. This includes accommodation requests for Permanent Disability, Temporary Disability, and Retroactive Accommodation.

In those instances where a student acknowledges that the rules and regulations of the University have been applied fairly, but is requesting that an exception be made because of special circumstances (compelling medical, personal, or family reasons) the student may submit, in a prompt and timely manner, a Petition for Special Consideration. The appropriate form is available on the School of Graduate Studies website. The student’s supervisor and Associate Chair are normally required to provide their independent assessments of the student’s statement in the petition. Supporting documentation will be required but will not ensure approval of the petition. The authority to grant petitions lies with the School of Graduate Studies and is discretionary. It is imperative that students make every effort to meet the originally-scheduled course requirements and it is a student’s responsibility to write examinations as scheduled.

In accordance with the Student Appeal Procedures, decisions made on Petitions for Special Consideration cannot be appealed to the Senate Board for Student appeals. Where any student feels there may have been discrimination on grounds in a protected social area as outlined in the Ontario Human Rights Code, they may contact the Equity and Inclusion Office to discuss initiating a complaint (Room 212 of the McMaster University Student Centre). In Health Sciences, Graduate Students should also consult the Advisor on Professionalism in Clinically-Based Education.

2.6 Academic Progression and Graduate Curriculum

This section pertains to course and milestone requirements for both Master’s and Doctoral studies.  A McMaster course is a body of work which is graded using the graduate student grading scale and consists of attending lectures, seminars or other organized activities (e.g. online discussions, experiential learning, etc.). Normally the beginning and end dates for courses should coincide with the beginning and end dates of University sessions. 

2.6.1 Definition of ‘Good Academic Standing’

To be considered to be in good academic standing a student must do the following as outlined in Section 1.3 :

  • enroll annually (excluding leaves of absence) until graduation, withdraw, or be withdrawn in good standing due to time limit;
  • pay fees as required;
  • comply with the regulations of the School of Graduate Studies as set out in this calendar and;
  • make satisfactory progress toward the completion of the degree as outlined in section 2.6 Academic Progression.

Failure to maintain the good academic standing may impact the students’ ability to receive scholarship funding and/or continue in the program. Students may be required to withdraw or may be prevented from registering for the subsequent academic year if they do not comply with the regulations outlined in this calendar, including failure to maintain satisfactory academic progress. 

2.6.2 Milestones

Milestones are non-course requirements that are part of the curriculum and required in addition to course work (e.g. seminars, workshops and comprehensive examinations etc.) Milestones are considered formal components of a student’s academic progress and if not successfully completed will normally prevent a student from graduating.

There are two types of Milestones: graded and non-graded.  Both types of milestones may be viewed on student progression reporting tools but normally only graded milestones will appear on the student’s transcript (once graded or otherwise completed).  

Graded milestones may be reported as Pass/Fail, letter grades or in the case of supervisory committee reports using a five-level descriptive scale.  If the student receives a failing grade (which includes Unsatisfactory or Marginal for supervisory committee reports) in a milestone they may be required to withdraw, particularly for comprehensive examinations. Normally, students receiving two or more failures in any combination of milestones and courses must withdraw from their degree program. 

Please refer to individual program descriptions for further details of non-coursework requirements.

2.6.3 Course Levels and Unit Values

Generally, graduate courses are numbered either at the 700- or 600-level and have a unit value, with the standard examples being 1.5 units (normally 12 to 19 hours of organized activity) for a course usually lasting for half a term, 3 units for a course usually lasting one term (normally 24 to 39 hours of organized activity), 6 units for a course usually lasting two terms (normally 48 to 78 hours of organized activity). Courses with zero-unit value are usually either core program requirements or meant for complementary learning activities.  Courses are restricted in enrolment to graduate students, with the exception of undergraduate students enrolled in 500-level courses equivalent to graduate courses and those students registered for approved, accelerated Masters programs and with written permission of their department (or program) chair, director, or designate.

Graduate students may only enroll in undergraduate courses with the approval of their supervisor or graduate program. Students are responsible for meeting the deadlines and requirements of the undergraduate course as presented in class and in the undergraduate calendar. Graduate students will be graded under the graduate grading scale. Students electing or required to take undergraduate courses may only register for a maximum of 12 units of such work.

2.6.4 Course Requirement and Designations

Graduate students are normally required to complete their course degree requirements by taking courses from within their program. As a minimum, at least 50% of units taken for fulfillment of degree requirements must be listed or cross-listed in the calendar under the degree program. Those courses taken outside of the program and not listed as part of the degree requirements, require the permission of the Associate Dean of the faculty or their delegate to be counted towards the degree. No program may allow more than one-third of their course requirements to be filled at the 600 level.  

Each program offers only a selection of its courses listed in the calendar in any given year. Students must select their courses for a term prior to the ‘add course’ sessional date and only after consulting with a program advisor or supervisor.  The default for course enrolment is to assign the course towards the primary academic program of a student and as a Master’s or Doctoral required course (described below).  This process does not determine whether the course will exceed the requirements outlined the curriculum, and normally cannot be changed once a final grade is reported. Where a student wishes to designate a particular course towards a program other than their primary academic program (ex. Diploma Course or Certificate Course) or designate a particular course as an Extra Course, a special request is required during the normal add period outlined in the sessional dates. The Request for In-Program Course Adjustment form is available on the School of Graduate Studies website.  

Courses are  designated as being in one of the five categories:

Master’s (Count towards the primary academic program requirements of a Master’s degree)
This category identifies the courses that are to count towards the Master’s degree requirements (including any additional graduate requirements or undergraduate courses specified by the supervisory committee or Department Chair).

Doctoral (Count towards the primary academic program requirements of a Doctoral degree)
This category identifies the courses that are to count towards the Doctoral degree requirements (including any additional graduate requirements or undergraduate courses specified by the supervisory committee or Department Chair).

Extra Courses (Extra Course)
This category identifies courses that do not count towards degree requirements. The student has  received the approval of their supervisor or program advisor and to designate the course as extra, by submitting a course designation request during the normal add period of course enrollment in a particular term. Students may petition to change the designation of an Extra Course to a Master’s or Doctoral course prior to the deadline to drop a course provided that this change is supported by the supervisor and program. Attempts to change the designation after the drop date will not be approved. For this category only, if a failing grade is received then the courses (and grade) will not appear on the student’s transcript unless because of academic dishonesty. 

Courses that are required by the supervisory committee or the Department Chair as additional requirements in excess of the stated minimum for the program must be designated as Master’s or Doctoral.

Diploma Course
This category identifies courses that are to count towards the requirements for a diploma.

Certificate Course
This category identifies courses that the student is taking as individual courses not counting towards the requirements for a diploma.

2.6.5 Courses Taken at Another Institution

It is possible for a graduate student registered at McMaster University to take a graduate course at another university for credit towards a McMaster degree.  In all cases, the student must make a request of the Associate Dean prior to enrolling in the course to determine if it is possible to use the course towards their degree requirements.  For courses at another Ontario University, a student must complete the Ontario Visiting Graduate Student (OVGS) form (see Section 5.10 ).  For courses not covered by the OVGS agreement, a student must submit a Request for In-Program Course Adjustments form and provide documentation on the course (eg. course syllabus), an official transcript as well as confirmation by the department that the course is suitable for degree requirements.  If the course is passed per the grading scheme of McMaster University (B- or higher) then a grade of “T” will show on the student’s transcript. Students may not count a course taken at another institution while on a leave of absence or work term placement (co-op) or otherwise not have paid tuition at McMaster during the period that the course was schedules and/or taken.

2.6.6. Audited Courses

Graduate Students may request to audit Graduate courses only; undergraduate courses may not be audited. Visiting students and post degree students may not audit a course. Audited courses have no academic credit and an audited course may not be retaken for credit. This requires a completed form, signed by the instructor and student’s supervisor. Upon completion of the course, and subject to confirmation from the instructor that their expectations regarding the student’s participation were met (i.e. that the student attended at least 80% of the class), a grade of “AUD” will be recorded on the transcript. No other grade will be assigned.  Students in a course-charged program will be charged a fee to audit a course that is equivalent to the course charge of their program.

2.6.7 Required Supplementary Courses for All Graduate Students

All graduate students, including part-time students, exchange students and visiting students must complete and pass the course SGS 101 Academic Research Integrity and Ethics and SGS 201 Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)  within the first month of their first term after their admission to graduate studies at McMaster. All students are required to take and pass SGS 101 and SGS 201 in order to graduate. Students may not graduate or register in subsequent academic years without having successfully completed this course.

2.6.8 Placeholder Courses

To complete registration at least one course needs to be added for each term. If the student is not taking an academic course in a term, there are two different placeholder courses.

  • SGS 700 - for students who are in programs that are costed on a per term basis
  • SGS 711 - for students who are in programs that are costed on a per course basis

If a student does not add a course in each term the student will not have completed their enrollment. This will have impacts on all aspects of student life including scholarships, fee assessment and ordering transcripts.

If a student adds a placeholder course and subsequently adds an academic course the placeholder should be dropped. The placeholder will not be dropped if the only courses remaining include:

  • SGS 101, and/or
  • SGS 201, and/or
  • Courses in the Education series - such as EDUCTN 750

Students who are here as a visiting researcher will need to enroll in SGS 302 , students on an exchange who are not enrolled in any academic courses will need to enroll in SGS 702.

2.6.9 Course Grading and Weighted Average Calculation

Instructors have the discretion of marking individual components of a course with either a letter or numerical grading scheme but final course grades taken at McMaster can only be reported as either Pass/Fail or letter grades. When numerical grading is used in a course, the final course average with decimal place of 0.5 or greater should be rounded up before conversion to a letter grade. The minimum passing grade for a graduate student in any course taken is a B-, including undergraduate courses or courses taken off campus. 

Table (a): Graduate Student Grading Scale (except for MBA and Master of Finance):



Equivalent Percentages




























69 and under


Note: Grades in graduate courses are reported as letter grades. Averaging of letter grades must be done using the McMaster 12-point scale. 

MBA and Master of Finance Grading Scale:



Equivalent Percentages




























59 and under


Example of Weighted Average Calculation, using the grade points and units for courses completed:

Course Grade

Grade Points


Course Units
































                                                                                                                                        To calculate Average:  135 ÷ 18 =7.5                                      


Note: Students are graded according to the type of course they are taking, for example non-MBA students who enlist in MBA courses are graded based on the MBA grading scale.


McMaster University’s Policy on Graduate Course Outlines is available at:



2.6.10 Incomplete Grades

For scheduled courses where the end date is known and complies to sessional dates, a grade must be supplied by the end of the course.  Under exceptional circumstances a course instructor may approve an extension for the student for the completion of work in a course but must assign an Incomplete grade (INC) at the end of the course.. Normally this extension is in the range of a few weeks. A student who receives an incomplete grade must complete the work as soon as possible, and in any case early enough to allow the instructor to report the grade by the sessional deadline noted as ‘Final Date to Submit Results of Incomplete Grades’. If the INC grade is not cleared by the deadline, normally an F grade will be entered.  Milestones are not generally scheduled according to sessional dates and therefore, there is no allowance for an INC grade for such learning activities.  

2.6.11 Failing a Course or Milestone

Failure in either a course or a milestone is reviewed by the appropriate Faculty Committee on Graduate Admissions and Study or the Associate Dean. The Faculty Committee on Graduate Admissions and Study or the Associate Dean acting on its behalf requests a departmental recommendation regarding the student, and this recommendation is given considerable weight. In the absence of a departmental recommendation to allow the student to continue, the student will be required to withdraw. Those allowed to remain in the program must either repeat or replace the failed course or milestone, per the decision of the Faculty Committee on Graduate Admissions and Study. A failing grade in a Certificate, Diploma, Master’s or Doctoral course remains on the transcript. Students who fail a second course or milestone will not normally be allowed to continue in the program. 

2.6.12 Repeated Courses

Graduate students may not repeat courses for credit. The only cases when a repeated course will show on the student’s transcript is when remediating a failing grade (see ‘Failing a Course or Milestone’) or taking reading/special topics courses. Reading or special topics courses generally have a generic name in the program’s calendar, but students may only have a repeated course show on their transcript if each time the topic was distinctly different from others previously taken. 

2.6.13 Withdrawal

A student may withdraw voluntarily from their program at any point and be considered to be in good standing. There are exceptions where a student is being investigated for a breach of university policy and may not be allowed to withdraw until concluded, such as an investigation of academic dishonesty.  The withdrawal will be recorded on the student academic record and reflected on the transcript. Re-admission for a student who has withdrawn in good standing will be made in competition with all other applicants.

Students withdrawn involuntarily will normally not be permitted to seek re-admission to the same program at any future time.

2.6.14 Outgoing Exchange Students

Students on exchange programs may take graduate courses that with approved transfer credit may count towards completion of course curriculum. Any credit for these courses will depend on the student achieving a passing grade based on the Graduate Grading Scale outlined in Section 2.6.9. Students are required to maintain enrolment at McMaster by registering for SGS 702.